Red Trail – Franklin Parker Preserve – Woodland Township (Chatsworth), Burlington County, NJ
Distance – 6 miles total (maybe a bit over since there is a short detour onto the Green Trail where beavers have flooded the trail that we missed and had to backtrack to)
Type – Loop
Difficulty: 4 of 10 – hills, flooding, wind, and cold. Probably only a 3 if it was warmer.
Updated: March 13, 2017
Note – This was initially a guest post by James. Thanks James! His beautiful shots are included together at the bottom of this post.
Website – Franklin Parker Preserve
Open – Sunrise to Sunset.
Terrain – hills, woods, swamps, bogs
Surface – Mostly sand.
Trailheads – 39°48’48.80″N, 39°48’48.80″N
Directions – Located on Route 532/Chatsworth-Tabernacle Road just across from Chatsworth Lake.
Parking – Decent size lot off of Route 542/Chatsworth-Tabernacle Road right across the Chatsworth Lake.
Dog friendly? I believe so, but can’t find anything one way or the other (although there were totally dogs out there when we hiked it).
Stroller friendly? Definitely not on the Red Trail. With a good stroller, should be able to do the Green Trail (not yet documented).
Benches? A few scattered through the preserve.
Map: Full size map here
Markings – red blazes
So after being tempted by Jame’s hike here for ages, The Pres, Tree Rider, and I finally picked a freezing, windy day in February to do this hike… whoops!
Still, it was awesome. It’s wilder than either the slightly longer Green Trail (6.7 miles) or the White Trail (2 miles) because it tends to go cross country, rather than stick to the old roads.
I’ve attempted to document the twists and turns of this one the best I can, but even with 96 pictures (oh my gosh, so much pretty) I don’t think I got everything! But its fun to try!
Anyway, from the parking lot, you can go right or left to start the trail. We opted for right. This took us through a nice bit of woods that paralleled the road, then climbed over a bit of hill, and put us at Bertha’s Canal, which we followed next to for about 1/3 of a mile.
After that 1/3 of mile, the trail takes a hard left and drops into a swampier area. Lots of nice views here of the wetlands, but pay attention to which way the trail heads, as there was a sharp left turn at one point. You’ll cross the old Jersey Central tracks and climb into some woodlands and, after about 1/3 of a mile from where you left the canal, you’ll emerge into a field.
After emerging into the open fields, you’ll make a sharp right. 0.1 of a mile will turn your right, back into the woods. You’ll loop around before emerging back into the open again. You’ll cross a little bridge and turn right, joining the Green Trail along the old roadway.
From here, the Red and Green Trails follow each other down to the watch tower. Climb and look for birdies! (or do what we did and freeze in the wind, so get down quickly and walk to warm back up)
You’ll rejoin the road, make a quick left onto another road, then a quick right back into the woods, where the trail will again loop around before crossing a road again and entering an area that part of a controlled burn. I am always fascinated walking through an area that was recently burned, because you can see what plants survived and what plants are already bouncing back.
On this stretch is where it gets odd, as you’ll hit a few puddles, then run into obviously flooded trails. This is not a good stretch to hike down, but you can backtrack a very short ways to the Green Trail, which you’ll use to detour around the flooded areas. This is due to beaver activity, and there are detour signs on the other side of the flooding, but none located here when we were hiking.
You also don’t want to miss this section, because when you are done admiring the beaver dam, you’ll quickly come up on the finest trail bridge in South Jersey. This hike is worth doing for this bridge alone.
Eventually, the Red Trail leaves the Green Trail for good and heads away from the bogs and into the forest. It’s just over a 3/4 of a mile home stretch once you exit the bog areas, but there are still a few pretty views to take in, plus another climb over the tracks of the Central Railroad of New Jersey.
Then its just a few hundred yards more back to the parking lot. What a great trip!
James’s really, really nice shots from his guest post:
Nearby: The Batona Trail Parker Preserve Reroute and the White Trail at the Parker Preserve are both inside of the the Parker Preserve. And we still have to do the Yellow Trail and Green Trail here (Green Trail looks like its mostly along the old bog roads).